The Human rights lawyer Femi Falana has condemned the alleged invitation of the spokesperson for former military President Ibrahim Babangida, Mr. Kassim Afegbua, by the Department of State Service (DSS).
Falana in a statement on Friday, said the security agency lacked the power to issue such invitation.
Afegbua was in the news recently after he issued a controversial statement in which General Babangida allegedly asked President Muhammadu Buhari to step down in 2019 to allow for a generational shift.
The former military President swiftly distanced himself from the statement while his spokesman insisted that it was endorsed by his boss.
On his part, Falana noted that the Inspector General of Police, Idris Ibrahim, rightly decided not to press charges against Babangida’s spokesman following his invitation, upon realising that he did not commit any offence known to law over the issuance of the said statement.
He, however, faulted Afegbua’s summoning for interrogation over the same matter by the DSS, stressing that the decision of the police had ended his “needless harassment”.
“The Police had claimed that Afegbua had defamed General Babangida; if the retired General was defamed in the publication, he has the liberty to seek redress in a high court.
“But the State Security Service has no power to convert the alleged civil wrong of defamation to a criminal offence to warrant the harassment of Afegbua,” the lawyer said.
He further noted that the invitation by the DSS “constitutes a gross abuse of powers”, since the alleged denial of the press statement by General Babangida has not caused any threat to the internal security of the country.
Falana stated that the Supreme Court had held while ruling on a case sometimes ago that the power of the DSS “is strictly limited to the prevention and detention of any crime against the internal security of Nigeria as stipulated by section 2 of the National Security Agencies Act.”
He then called on President Buhari to restrain the security agency from subjecting Babangida’s spokesman to any form of interrogation.
According to him, such act violates Afegbua’s fundamental rights to personal liberty and fair hearing guaranteed by the Constitution.